(Mar. 2, 2008) On February 1, 2008, a new annual cycle for the issuance of migrant quotas started in Russia. According to a government regulation, two million guest workers from abroad will be admitted in 2008, including about 60,000 people from the countries that have visa relations with Russia and the rest from the former Soviet republics, because guest workers from these republics do not need visas but merely have to be registered with local migration service offices. This number is almost three times lower than the 2007 figures, mostly because the number of permits issued for the cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg, the most attractive destinations for foreign laborers, has been decreased significantly, in order to secure an even distribution of migrants. Quotas can be increased by up to 30 percent if needed, and additional permits can be issued should a labor force deficit become obvious.
The distribution of quotas will be conducted according to 14 occupational categories. According to amendments to migration legislation adopted last year, foreigners are not allowed to work in the retail sector or to sell goods in markets. It is expected that the simplified registration of guest workers by merely informing the authorities, together with tough deportation policies and high fines against those who employ illegal migrants, will lead to a decrease in the number of illegal immigrants. In 2007, illegal immigrants, according to government estimates, amounted to 15 million people. In 2007, fines for illegal employment of foreigners rose to US$200,000. (Federal Migration Service: Quotas for Foreign Laborers Is 2 Million People, NEWSRU.COM INFORMATION AGENCY, Jan. 2, 2008.)